The Australian Federal Government has decided not to approve Phosphate Resources Limited's exploration program on Christmas Island due to potentially significant and unacceptable environmental impacts.
The decision follows a rigorous and comprehensive assessment under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, including the consideration of the social and economic benefits of the proposal as well as comments received on the proposed decision from relevant Ministers and from Phosphate Resources.
The company has been mining on the Indian Ocean Territory for more than 100 years. According to local media sources, Phosphate Resources has claimed that it needed to clear more crown land to access new deposits for the operations to remain viable.
Under the proposed expansion, the company wanted to clear additional 6.83 hectares of land to undertake exploration drilling in what has been described as a “pristine area of the island”.
Although the proposal was backed by the local shire and population, the Federal Government maintained that Christmas Island was a unique and irreplaceable environment, being home to many unique and rare plants and animals including the millions of red crabs which migrate to the sea each year to spawn.
“Environmental damage on small islands had a far greater impact because of its limited capacity to recover from declines in biodiversity caused by the cumulative effects of land clearing, habitat fragmentation and invasive species compared to large land masses”, said the Hon. Josh Frydenberg MP, Minister for the Environment and Energy.
“While there has been some mineral extraction dating back some 100 years, the Government has determined that this particular proposal is likely to have unacceptable impacts on the environment of Christmas Island,” commented Mr Frydenberg.